A look at how and why some species die out, with an emphasis on the extinction resistance of others. Though the Alvarez theory, that the demise of the dinosaurs may have been affected by a fall of meteors, is still scientifically suspect, Raup (statistical paleontology, U. of Chicago) figures he may as well be hung for a cow as for a calf, and argues that all extinction of species are at least partly caused by meteors. The thought that even the fittest of the fit can be in the wrong place at the wrong time, is chilling to human smugness about being the crown jewel of evolution. The writing is clear, often humorous, and suitable for the general reader who cannot remember geologic names for more than a couple pages
Almost all species are extinct -- Brief history of life -- Gambler's ruin and other problems -- Mass extinctions -- Selectivity of extinction -- Search for causes -- Biological causes of extinction -- Physical causes of extinction -- Rocks falling out of the sky -- Could all extinctions be caused by meteorite impact? -- Perspectives on extinction -- Epilogue: Did we choose a safe planet?